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Searching for Young Voices on China-Africa Relations

Hey there! Welcome to Student xChange of The China Africa Project. Thank you for stopping by!

My name is Jodi-Ann, editor of Student xChange. I am here with goals of amplifying young voices around the world on China-Africa ties. Currently, a senior honors candidate studying international studies at Kenyon College, my academic interests centers on sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia development. My unusual background miraculously led me on a path to studying China-Africa relations – I was born in China, raised in Vancouver Canada to immigrant parents, and competed in rugby at the national level for 9 years. Rugby brought me to Ghana the summer of 2016 to work for the National Ministry of Youth and Sports and Ghana Rugby, recruiting and training the National U-17 Men’s rugby team and working for the National Sports Authority. My two months in Accra coincided with the height of government crackdown on galamsey – illegal gold mining – and my Chinese appearance inevitably became conversation starters. Upon further exploration of the issue of Chinese migrants’ participation in unregulated gold mining in Ghana, including conversing with Chinese participants of such activity that destabilizes local politics and economy, I gained immense interests in the growing relationship between China and Africa, a phenomenon of critical importance in contemporary international politics.

What is China doing in Africa?” was (and still is) the most frequently asked question to me, both by many Ghanaians and Chinese, and frankly, remains the guiding question of my academic inquiry. I was intrigued to further explore the nuanced topic of China-Africa relations. Fluent in Mandarin, harnessed by my Western upbringing and my personal interactions and observations of Chinese engagement in Ghana, both at the “state-level” and the “human-level”, I was determined to devote the rest of my college academic career, and beyond, to investigating the intensifying political-economic relations within a changing global geopolitical landscape.

The median age in Africa is 19.4 years old, so if you’re not listening to what young people have to say then you just won’t understand what’s happening in Africa. Period.

During my year of research in Ghana and China, I interacted with many Ghanaians and Chinese discussing their direct and indirect interactions with “China in Africa”: trotro drivers, academics, college students, entrepreneurs, shop owners, members of the Ghana Millionaire Men’s Club, etc. The result from these interviews was a collection of perspectives that refuses simplistic discussions about what the growing engagement between China and Ghana, and on a larger scale, China and Africa, might mean. It unveiled the importance of context and voices, which are also priorities in the content produced by The China Africa Project. I am most interested in examining the ongoing analysis, commentary, and empirical evidence that deepen our understanding of how the geopolitical shift towards the emerging regions of China and Africa are disrupting the international relations ordered long-rooted in Western beliefs of free market and democracy. More importantly, as a budding scholar in this space, I hope to insert research and perspectives of my own, given my contextual understanding of some of the regions heavily involved in Sino-African contact. Simultaneously, I want to invite others – young people attracted to engaging in conversations surrounding China-Africa relations – to construct nuanced discussions through our own perspectives.

In China, the difference in worldview between the young generation and their parents is staggering. So, if you’re only listening to the analysts, scholars and opinionistas 35-years-old and up, well, you’re missing a huge part of what’s going on.

Put it simply, the rapid growth and transformation in solving inter-state issues of our world today demand the voices of young people. The median age in Africa is 19.4 years, and 37 in China – how can you talk development in Africa without the weighing in the young voices? To foster a better understanding of the evolving, globalizing world we live in, the stories and observations of young people experiencing this global transformational development will help identify the trends, challenges, and solutions existing in our generation. Understanding today’s world necessitates comprehending China and its links with the rest of the Developing World. This, in turn, entails appreciating the voices of the younger generation, who grapples the world at our fingertips, while carrying stronger senses of social responsibility in this digitally-connected world. As Sino-African relations become an increasingly significant feature of world politics, we hope to use the participatory content-creation process of Student xChange to produce materials that feature young voices, tailored to garner high-level of engagement in discussing not only the China-Africa ties in the now, but also in the future

So stay and hear our opinions. Want to share your outlook and join the conversation? Do not hesitate to reach out to me at wang2@kenyon.edu .

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